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    After finishing their meal, Lu Changting said, “Let’s walk around the school. I haven’t been back for many years.”

    Shen Li lowered his head slightly and responded with a soft “Mm.”

    His fingers curled nervously as he followed Lu Changting towards the school. It felt like he was back in high school. Back then, he would only dare to blend into the crowd, secretly following Lu Changting from a distance. Now, he was walking beside him…

    The sunlight stretched their shadows long and slanted. As they walked, the backs of their hands lightly brushed against each other. Shen Li’s fingers twitched, then clenched tightly, and he withdrew his hand.

    There was a mild and slightly refreshing woody fragrance in the air. Out of the corner of his eye, it seemed as if their shadows were holding hands, walking side by side.

    Lu Changting’s lips curved into a slight smile. He cast his gaze toward the nearby basketball court. “When was the basketball court renovated?”

    The color of the rubber flooring looked much newer.

    Shen Li followed his gaze. “It was renovated last year.”

    “In high school, I had six basketballs confiscated,” Lu Changting said as he walked to the shade of the trees by the basketball court. He recalled his high school days and smiled faintly. “The dean never returned them to me, even until graduation.”

    At that time, the school had a new dean who enforced strict rules. Students were prohibited from bringing basketballs onto the school grounds and from playing basketball during breaks. If a basketball was seen, it would be confiscated. The only way to play was to borrow one from the equipment room using a school card, but the basketballs there were of poor quality. So, he secretly brought his own basketballs, only to be caught by the dean several times.

    Looking at the familiar basketball court, Lu Changting suddenly remembered something. “I remember there was someone in your class named Du Heng? He often played basketball with me.”

    “Yes,” Shen Li responded softly. “He was the sports committee member.”

    “We were quite close in high school,” Lu Changting said, his tone slightly nostalgic. “But we gradually lost touch after graduation.”

    “Many high school friends and classmates gradually lose touch after graduation,” Shen Li said. “I think that’s how it is for everyone.”

    Lu Changting asked, “Do you still keep in touch with him?”

    “Yes, but not often,” Shen Li replied. “He works in City B and only comes back at the end of the year.”

    Friendships between men don’t rely much on constant communication. They rarely chatted on WeChat or called each other throughout the year, but whenever Du Heng returned to S City, Shen Li would definitely pick him up. Du Heng would always invite him out for drinks and meals. No matter what, if either needed help, one phone call would suffice.

    “It seems you two have a good relationship.” Lu Changting felt a bit disheartened. He had a good relationship with Du Heng in high school, and Shen Li also had a good relationship with Du Heng. Their classes were so close, and they had a common friend. Why had he never known about Shen Li?

    Shen Li responded with a “Mm,” and said, “He was probably my only friend in high school.”

    Though their friendship initially started with copying homework.

    Lu Changting turned his head to look at him and suddenly didn’t want to continue talking about Du Heng. So, he awkwardly changed the subject, “What did you like to do in high school?”

    “Daydream, I guess.” 

    Shen Li silently added, and looking at you.

    Lu Changting laughed. He could almost instantly imagine a boy with a distant gaze, staring out the window in a daze, with neatly stacked books on his desk, sitting quietly in the corner of the classroom. If he had ever walked by Class Sixteen and looked in, he would have seen him at a glance.

    Unfortunately, he rarely walked by Class Sixteen and never looked in.

    As his gaze swept past the small building by the basketball court, Lu Changting asked, “Have you heard the ghost story about that small building?”

    Shen Li was momentarily stunned, his eyes lowering. “Yes.”

    Finding a common topic, Lu Changting’s tone became lighter. “On the night of the first day of school in the first year, did you go to that small building too?”

    Shen Li responded with a “Mm.”

    Lu Changting chuckled softly, “Did the teacher catch you?”

    “No.” Shen Li squeezed his palms. Whether it was due to the heat or his nervousness, a thin layer of sweat had formed in his palms.

    He asked back, “What about you?”

    “Neither did I.” Lu Changting’s smile reached his eyes and brows, and he curved his lips, “I even pulled along a confused classmate.”

    Shen Li didn’t know why, but he suddenly wanted to laugh.

    So Lu Changting remembered him.

    Yes, Lu Changting had just casually pulled him along, but Shen Li had remembered Lu Changting for many years.

    “Come to think of it, even though we didn’t know each other in high school, we did go through a lot of things together,” Lu Changting searched through his memories, recounting events that might have included Shen Li, “like exploring the small building at night, military training, the sports meet, and the coming-of-age ceremony…”

    As he spoke, he paused.

    He didn’t know Shen Li back then, but Shen Li knew him. Did that mean Shen Li also knew about his high school romance? After all these years, bringing it up seemed to imply he couldn’t let it go. He sighed inwardly and changed the subject again.

    They continued to stroll and chat, eventually touching on Shen Li’s recent post on his social media.

    Shen Li had been somewhat nervous the entire day, with the conversation completely led by Lu Changting.

    When he heard Lu Changting laughingly ask why he was at school so late that day and if he had climbed over the wall in the end, Shen Li subconsciously touched his palm.

    The place where the broken glass had cut him was now completely healed without a trace of a scar.

    “On a whim, I just came back to have a look around.”

    Lu Changting asked, “Were you alone?”

    Shen Li replied, “With Jiang Chifeng.”

    Lu Changting raised his eyebrows. “Is he also from No. 1 High School?”

    After confirming his own feelings, he had looked into Jiang Chifeng.

    Knowing that Jiang Chifeng had a partner had eased some of his hostility towards him, but the fact that Jiang Chifeng and Shen Li were very close still stirred a strong sense of jealousy in him whenever he heard Jiang Chifeng’s name.

    “He’s from No. 2 High School.” Shen Li didn’t catch the jealousy in his tone and answered truthfully, “I called him out.”

    “He’s the only friend who always shows up when called.”

    Lu Changting stopped in his tracks and looked at him with a deep gaze. “Next time, you can invite me.”

    Shen Li didn’t respond immediately, puzzled, and let out a questioning “Hmm?”

    “Next time, you can invite me,” Lu Changting repeated seriously, “I’ll come whenever you call.”

    Shen Li was momentarily stunned, his Adam’s apple moving nervously, and his fingers clenched unconsciously.

    Was he… dreaming?

    “What’s wrong?” Seeing Shen Li’s silence, Lu Changting’s tone turned somewhat disappointed. “If Jiang Chifeng can be invited, why can’t I?”

    “Of course…” Shen Li’s voice was hoarse as he spoke. He slowly unclenched his fingers and looked at Lu Changting, afraid that this was just an illusion and not daring to blink. “Of course, you can.”

    “Then it’s settled,” Lu Changting said with a smile. “Next time, invite me.”

    When they reached the school auditorium, Lu Changting suddenly asked, “Is the small side door still there?”

    Calling it an auditorium wasn’t entirely accurate. The auditorium at No. 1 High School was a large building next to the laboratory building. The first floor served as the auditorium and gymnasium, with a stage, control room, indoor basketball court, and a gym. The second, third, and fourth floors housed music classrooms and practice rooms, and the fifth floor had a dance studio.

    The auditorium building was locked on weekends. The second floor’s hallway and the classrooms were locked as well, making it nearly impossible to sneak into the practice rooms or dance studio. However, there was a small side door on the first floor, an old iron gate with a broken lock. Although the door was closed, it could be easily pushed open.

    The small side door was about the size of a regular residential door and located at the back of the building. It was rarely used, with a small bamboo grove and abundant greenery partially concealing its presence. Only the school’s students knew about the small side door…

    Shen Li immediately understood his intention and was somewhat tempted. “It’s still there.”

    The small side door was just as it used to be, with ivy climbing up the corner walls, leaves pressed close together, their veins clear, layering over each other. When the wind blew, it looked like a ripple of green waves.

    The spacious gymnasium was covered with hardwood floors, with a tall stage at the front. The lights and curtains were silent, and a piano in the corner was covered with a black dust cloth, standing like a loyal guardian of the auditorium, year after year, quietly in place.

    Shen Li looked at the piano, his peripheral vision catching Lu Changting, his gaze both tender and intense.

    He stepped onto the stage, lifted the dust cover, and gently touched the piano lid.

    “Can you play?” Lu Changting asked as he opened the piano lid and looked up at him.

    Shen Li, with his head lowered, ran his slender fingers over the black and white keys, pressing down a few notes slowly. The empty and quiet auditorium echoed with the melody of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

    His index finger stopped on the C note. Shen Li pressed his lips together and said, “You played the ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Variations’ at the New Year’s Eve party that year.”

    For a long time, he fell asleep every night with that melody in his mind, filled with thoughts and secrets known only to himself.

    Lu Changting hadn’t expected him to remember that. He naturally continued from Shen Li’s prelude, his fingers relaxed on the keys, each joint distinct as they danced nimbly over the black and white keys, producing a cheerful and fluent melody.

    His fingertips seemed to break star after star, and the piano’s sound flowed like a river from his hands, clear and bright, long and continuous, one phrase faster than the next.

    The handsome man, seated at the piano, pressed the pedals with his feet, his head slightly lowered, eyes focused on the keys, hands moving fluidly, alternating between fast and slow with ease.

    Shen Li looked at Lu Changting, his eyes filled with seriousness and tenderness.

    His heart, hidden behind the piano’s melody, beat faster and faster, thumping as if trying to keep pace with the rhythm of the music. Even after the music stopped, his heart continued to pound like a drum, unable to calm down.

    “Who’s in the auditorium?” A stern voice called out from the side door near the basketball court. The glass door offered a clear view of the auditorium’s interior. Lu Changting grabbed Shen Li’s wrist and ducked under the piano, pulling the black dust cover over them, hiding their figures.

    Under the piano, the cramped space held the two men close together. Shen Li was almost nestled in Lu Changting’s arms. Instinctively, he tried to move back, but his head bumped against the piano, making a dull thud.

    “Don’t move.” Lu Changting leaned in closer, placing his hand between Shen Li’s head and the piano, gently touching his head. “Don’t make a sound.”

    Shen Li’s heart skipped a beat, and he held his breath.

    Too close.

    His face felt hot, and his heartbeat quickened.

    He closed his eyes abruptly, then very lightly rested his head on Lu Changting’s shoulder, lowering it obediently.

    In the darkness, all senses were heightened—their tangled heartbeats, their intertwined breaths… Lu Changting, using the faint light coming through the gaps, looked at him and asked in a hushed voice, “Did it hurt?”

    Shen Li shook his head slightly.

    Lu Changting gazed at his quietly lowered eyes, and his fingers twitched.

    He struggled between restraint and boldness but ultimately moved his gaze away, focusing on the sounds outside.

    After a while, hearing no more noises, the teacher on duty seemed to have left. He glanced at Shen Li, feeling that staying there any longer would test his self-control too much. So he cautiously tried to get up.

    As soon as he moved, Shen Li grabbed his coat tightly.

    Shen Li whispered hesitantly, “…Let’s wait a bit longer.”

    Just let him stay like this for a little while longer.

    Just a little while, he wasn’t asking for much.

    Author’s Note:

    C Major “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Variations”: A piano piece composed by Mozart in 1778. The original title “Ah! vous dirai-je, maman” translates to “Ah! Will I tell you, Mama,” a set of twelve variations based on the French song.

    The first variation was later given lyrics by the British poet Jane Taylor, becoming the well-known nursery rhyme “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” In China, it’s also referred to as the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Variations,” but the lyrics for “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” were written after Mozart’s death. Therefore, the name isn’t entirely accurate, although it is widely recognized for its brevity.

    Small Theater 1

    Lu Changting: That night I ran so fast, I even casually pulled along a sleepy classmate.

    Shen Li: Hmm, that person is me, but you didn’t know, and I won’t tell you.

    Jun: Right, you ran so fast, your boyfriend couldn’t even catch up with you.

    A rendition of “Legend” for our classmate Lu Changting

    Just because I glanced at you less in the crowd, I couldn’t remember your face again…

    Small Theater 2

    At the beginning of a new semester, classmates gather in the classroom, chatting lively

    Classmate A: Hey, did you hear? Our school auditorium is haunted, the piano plays by itself!

    Classmate B: That’s not haunting, it’s becoming sentient, right?

    Classmate C: Wow, the piano in the auditorium playing by itself in the middle of the night is too scary.

    Classmate D: Strong, prosperous, democratic, civilized, harmonious, free, equal, just, legal, patriotic, dedicated, honest, friendly… Let’s explore the auditorium at night!

    Small theater 3

    Jun: He closed his eyes, why didn’t you kiss him!

    Lu Changting: Who said I couldn’t kiss him, hmm?

    Jun (righteously): You haven’t started dating yet, why would you kiss!

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